It is a basic or general rule and knowledge that the learning process and patterns differ for every student or learner. The concept of individual differences supports this idea as it builds on the theory that the structure or dimensions of the various faculties of individuals differ for each child, such as the physical, emotional, psychological, and cognitive faculties. From this point of view, we draw out the conclusion that individual differences must also mean that the pedagogical process should be designed to address them in order to facilitate learning in different kinds of situations.
In other cases, not only are the various faculties considered, but also environmental factors such as social faculties, and more importantly, the cultural background from which an individual belongs to. With this in mind, the remainder of this text will look into the comparison and contrast of cultural factors that influence academic performance, particularly on a specific learning group – the Limited English Proficient or LEP students and the Fluent English Speakers or FES population.
The primary difference between LEP and FES learners is the rate of standard of English language proficiency, either in listening, reading, writing and speaking. The implication of this particular inconsistency of English language proficiency when we talk about the learning situation is that learning becomes imbalanced or varied due to the different learning needs and demands of the aforementioned learning groups. Moreover, this also means that the teaching-learning process will cease to become effective if it lends itself to the traditional means of learning.
For instance, since LEP learners lack the knowledge, skills, and competencies of displaying their proficiency on the English language, the curriculum as well as other learning aspects or situations are modified in order to make them less difficult and easier for the learners to understand at their own pace. On the other hand, the FES population has advanced and more developed proficiency in the English language. Therefore, the learning situation should be made challenging in order to increase or further learning and take it to the next level. The Interaction Model presented by Dr.
Fred Tempes and Lilia Stapleton in their case study about bilingual education suggest that the academic performance of students when it comes to English language proficiency is dependent on the community background, the knowledge, skills, and competencies by the learner, the instructional method or techniques implemented, and the educational background. The condition of a learner’s community background constitutes the socio-economic status of families within the community and the academic performance of schools or academic institutions that provide learning opportunities for LEP students.
These factors have something to do with the chance or capability of families to pay for bilingual educational programs for their children and the academic institution to provide effective and comprehensive bilingual educational programs. Another factor includes the primary language that families use at home and the kind of culture that exists within it. For instance, families that use Spanish as their primary language at home will expect their children to have difficulties in learning the English language in school.
Moreover, a family that readily accepts the necessity to learn the English language would be more open to being involved, contributive, and supportive to the English learning process. (Tempes & Stapleton, 1986) The student input factors that influence academic performance of LEP students include the obtained rate in English language proficiency, the academic performance rated and quantified for the English courses, and student mobility.
In addition, the educational background that affects student academic performance for LEP students has something to do with the design, structure, learning objectives, and quality of educational programs implemented by academic institutions covering the institutional learning goals and objectives, the educational philosophies, the curriculum, the syllabus, instructional methods, strategies, techniques, and materials, and such.
(Tempes & Stapleton, 1986) On the other hand, the cultural factors that influence academic performance of the FES population differ from that of the LEP students. Culture, particularly language, is less likely to influence academic performance of the FES population since learning becomes easier and less challenging due to their increased proficiency of the English language which is the primary medium of instruction in academic institutions.
For instance, instructions or directions are clearly understood leaving enough time for them to accomplish learning goals and objectives for English courses. However, academic institutions need to focus on the educational background or the ability of the academic institution to provide the highest standard of education for the FES population in order to increase the input of the students in terms of their academic performance and development of their English language skills and competencies.
This particular difference is the primary reason why teachers express their difficulty in adjusting to the varying needs and demands of LEP students and the FES population. On the contrary, this particular situation is the reason why the government and academic institutions are continually raising the quality of education and educational programs since there is a pressing need to develop and implement bilingual education to address diverse needs of the student population. (Howard & Loeb, 1998)
The cultural factors that influence the academic performance of LEP students and the FES population has impacted how the government and academic institutions regard and acknowledge the importance of multicultural educational programs or curricula. Aside from the obvious need of LEP students to obtain an efficient, appropriate, and comprehensive language education, the rate of academic performance of the FES population when compared to that of the LEP students helped in establishing multicultural educational programs and curricula to address specific learning needs for both population.
One example would be the No Child Left Behind or NCLB Act implemented by the U. S. government in 2001. Taking the context of the NCLB and applying it to the educational situation of American Indians in the country (Beaulieu, Sparks & Alonzo, 2005), various discussions were conducted in order to reconcile the need to implement NCLB but at the same time preserve the culture of American Indians through culturally-sensitive educational programs (Campbell, 2000).
While effective programs for FES students rely on the continuity of traditional education programs that does not incorporate special courses or directives for the learning of English as a second language, educational programs for LEP or ESL students incorporate the accomplishment of educational standards and guidelines for the learning of the English language while at the same time implementing the traditional programs for FES students which not only focuses on English courses but other subjects, courses, or programs as well.
Therefore, the educational programs and curricula for LEP or ESL students are more specialized and particular to the learning of the English language in traditional educational settings, including the need to become integrated to society through the learning process and learn traditional concepts inclusive of regular educational programs, making it more challenging and difficult as compared to those provided for the FES population. (Thomas & Collier, 1997)
Aside from the implementation of multicultural curriculum as means to develop and improve education for LEP and ESL students, the knowledge, skills, and competencies of teachers in teaching the English language to second language learners should also be evaluated and assessed. TESOL discussed the need not only to improve multicultural curricula, but also to develop teaching capabilities and competencies through teacher education. This will be done by raising standards and guidelines in accrediting teacher education programs.
(TESOL Task Force & ESL Program Review Specialist, 2008) Considering teacher competencies is one way of addressing the needs of LEP and ESL students and acknowledging the fact that academic performance is not the concern of the students, their parents, and the community alone. One of the main contributors to the academic performance of LEP and ESL students also include the “teacher factor. ” TESOL’s contribution to raising the standards of teacher education to improve the quality of multicultural educational programs has paved way to the rising quality of multicultural educational programs for the benefit of the LEP and ESL students.
References Beaulieu, D. , Sparks, L. & Alonzo, M. (2005). No Child Left Behind in Indian Country. NIEA Preliminary Report: National Indian Education Association. Campbell. (2000). Amending the Native American Languages Act to Provide for the Support of Native American Language Survival Schools, and for Other Purposes. The Committee on Indian Affairs, 106th Congress: The United States Senate. Howard, E. R. & Loeb, M. I. (1998). In Their Own Words: Two-Way Immersion Teachers Talk About Their Professional Experiences.
Center For Applied Linguistics: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. TESOL Task Force & ESL Program Review Specialist. (2008). Standards for the Accreditation of Initial Programs in P-12 ESL Teacher Education. TESOL. Tempes, F. & Stapleton, L. (1986). Case Studies in Bilingual Education. Federal Grant #G008303723 Thomas, W. P. & Collier, V. (1997). School Effectiveness for Language Minority Students. Center for the Study of Language and Education. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.